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Appreciating the Randolph Scott / Budd Boetticher Westerns

Like a fine wine, Randolph Scott westerns, particularly those directed by Budd Boetticher have only gotten better as the years have passed by. Their reputations and stature only increasing with the likes of Martin Scorsese championing them and the fact that they are readily available to revisit on home video via DVD sets and blu ray editions that have kept them front and center for movie buffs and western fans alike.

Of the seven westerns that the actor and director teamed on, five of them stand out thanks to the writing of Burt Kennedy. While plenty has been written by scholars and film historians on the subject, I’ve always liked them for the lean plots, Budd’s direction and Kennedy’s tight dialogue combined with Scott’s presence, the location filming in California, the character actors and those portraying the villains who signed on to play opposite our hero.

The films ….

7 Men From Now (1956)

“A man oughta be able to take care of his woman.”

Cast includes, Gail Russell, John Larch, Don Red Barry, Stuart Whitman and

…. Lee Marvin.

The Tall T (1957)

“Some things a man can’t ride around.” 

Cast includes, Maureen O’Sullivan, Arthur Hunnicutt, Skip Homeier and if you love a good heavy we get two legendary ones facing off against Scott, Henry Silva ….

AND Richard Boone.

Decision at Sundown (1957) 

“When a man’s riding high, the ground comes up and hits him a lot harder when he falls.” 

Cast includes, Karen Steele, John Carroll, Noah Beery Jr. Valerie French, Andrew Duggan, John Litel, Ray Teal, Richard Deacon and James Westerfield. One of the two titles not written by Kennedy and while watchable it lacks that extra spark the others have and is in need of a stronger presence to play a villain. But we’ve still got Scott.

Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)

“I ain’t gonna linger no place until I get back where I belong.”

Cast includes, Barry Kelly, Peter Whitney, Craig Stevens, Roy Jenson and ….

L.Q. Jones.

Ride Lonesome (1959)

“you said you wanted to start over. I hope so. ‘Cause you don’t, I’ll be the one comes looking to find you.”

Cast includes Pernell Roberts, Karen Steele, James Coburn, James Best and ….

Lee Van Cleef.

Westbound (1959)

“I won’t ask you a second time.”

Cast includes Virginia Mayo, Karen Steele, Michael Dante, Andrew Duggan, Michael Pate. The second of the Kennedy-less titles again proves a bit weaker than the others but we still get Scott in the saddle and one of my favorite leading ladies of the era, Miss Mayo.

…. and finally Comanche Station (1960) 

“You’ll end up on a rope, Dobie. You know that.” 

A sparse cast that includes Nancy Gates, Skip Homeier and ….

Claude Akins.

After binge watching/revisiting the seven westerns I’m reminded that the ones I liked best are those taking place in the rocky terrain of Lone Pine, California. The ones where Scott is a hardened man with a past. Much like the Jimmy Stewart characters in the Anthony Mann films. So in effect I much prefer Seven Men From Now, The Tall T, Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station when cornered. Not surprisingly these films also offer us the best villains to go against Scott.

Five of the seven films have been properly restored and released in a splendid blu ray set via an Indicator run of 6000 sets. Mine is numbered at 1157. The five films included were originally released to theaters by Columbia for Ranown Pictures. Ranown being a partnership between Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown. The five titles are The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone, Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station.

The two remaining titles not included in the set are the pair’s first film, Seven Men From Now and Westbound. Seven Men was a Batjac production for John Wayne’s company who was at one time slated for the starring role. This explains the presence of Gail Russell in the lead role, a frequent costar of Duke’s who despite his help couldn’t shake off the alcoholism that would lead to her death at just 36 years of age. The film was all but lost for years until the Wayne estate finally released it to DVD a few years back.

Westbound was a Warner Brother release and therefore not included in the box set. While the company has released it via their Warner Archive line it’s unfortunate that it’s not been properly restored with added bonus materials as the Indicator set bestows upon each film.

As for the Indicator set, you’ll find a 78 page booklet, introductions from Scorsese, interviews with Clint Eastwood, Christopher Frayling, Featurettes, Commentaries, Super 8 versions, a 78 minute interview with Elmore Leonard, a 95 minute interview with Boetticher, Trailers, Galleries and much more.

Reward yourself and discover these films if you haven’t already. And once your through with them, seek out other Scott westerns that he made during the latter half of his career when he stuck to the genre and then go looking for other Boettcher titles. There are plenty to choose from.

18 Comments »

  1. When I was younger I used to steer clear of Randolph Scott Westerns as I felt they were more like Frontier Dramas for adults (a historian on TCM confirmed this for me years ago) rather than traditional Western stories. I’m more about action, character and story, than just character pathos, but The Tall T, Ride Lonesome, and Seven Men From Now Look like they can deliver on both ends and I’m more than willing to give them a chance now. I especially loved your special intros to Van Cleef, Marvin, Silva, Boone, and Atkins, very nice touch to some fine baddies.

    • I guess when I was a kid his films were not the ones I’d see regularly. It was more Audie Murphy and John Wayne on TV I guess. Hard to resist the small but solid casts in some these. Hope you have fun with them.

  2. I’m just discovering these films now as I randomly came across the Boetticher/Scott dvd collection for $13 at a 2nd and Charles recently. What a find! I’ve watched 2 from the set so far and I’m going to pace out the rest as they are so good I don’t want to go through them too fast!

    • Great timing! They get better with each viewing as you begin to notice the little things. Scott is so sparse with the dialogue but when he says something it seems to carry a lot of weight. Enjoy.

  3. I have always like those westerns with a lean plot (easy to follow)and no cracking of head necessary. I would call all these movies, Randolph Scott’s Essentials. Mike, you sure know how to present your composition, revealing movie by movie and the stars involved! You have got style. Best regards.

  4. Great post ,Mike! You know I love the Scott westerns . I would have substituted HANGMAN’S KNOT for Westbound but of course it’s not Boetticher. . Hope you’ll write about Hangman’s Knot sometime. Such good casts, as you highlighted – Marvin,Boone , Claude Akins,Henry Silva (boy, was he evil),Virginia Mayo, Nancy Gates, Gail Russell.
    I have a soft spot for Buchanan Rides Alone, a lighter story with Scott much like James Garner in Support Your Local Sheriff, basically just passing through this town and caught up In a family feud.

    • Thanks! I can see the Support/Garner comparison. Really liked Peter Whitney in that one as the sneaky bar keep. Also L.Q. Jones as the happy go lucky cowpoke before he wound up playing one villain after another once his Peckinpah years began. Hangman’s Knot a good one with another stellar cast surrounding Scott. Cheers’

  5. Unlike some of the posters above, Scott was one of, and probably the, first of my western heroes. That fondness for the man and his movies has never left me and I can revisit these films endlessly. I’m not crazy about Westbound, not because it’s a poor movie but just not quite up to the standard of the others. The best of the collaborations with Boetticher, and that is most of them, take the western to a different level and make d=for highly rewarding viewing.
    That Indicator Blu-ray set is terrific, great films well presented and with lots of thoughtful supplements.

    • Westbound is off in that it doesn’t fit the formula that the pair had worked so hard to perfect. It’s not even 70 minutes in length, and as for Miss Mayo, the role is secondary and it’s surprising she’s even in it. I’ve been buying up all those indicator sets. They’re all well put together with bonus materials and presentation. Again it’s too bad they couldn’t have landed the rights to the two films not included and given them a proper go though in fairness to the Batjack/Paramount release on DVD of Seven Men From Now does have some good extras.

  6. Working my way through this same set, only it’s the DVD version from Sony…the Budd Boetticher Collection. Liking them so far…I also own Seven Men from Now, which I really liked. A good revenge story.

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